Mary Poppins age rating changed from U to PG over 'discriminatory language' claims

Mary Poppins
Glynis Johns alongside Davd Tomlinson, Matthew Garber and Karen Dotrice in Disney's Mary Poppins
Lauren Williams

By Lauren Williams

Published: 26/02/2024

- 09:12

Updated: 26/02/2024

- 09:42

Mary Poppins has been a staple film in many childhoods since 1964

Mary Poppins has recently been deemed to no longer be suitable for younger children to watch on their own – due to claims of “discriminatory language”.

From generation to generation, Mary Poppins has arrived in the homes of children for many years and given the impression of the perfect nanny.

However, The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has lifted the age rating from a U to a PG as it apparently contains “discriminatory language” which is related to the use of the word Hottentots.

The term is regarded to be racially offensive and is used twice by Admiral Boom, who is played by Reginald Owen, and believed to be a naval commander in charge of a ship.

Hottentots is a term regarded to be racially offensive to the Khoikhoi, a group of indigenous people of southwestern Africa.

The BBFC said: “We understand from our racism and discrimination research... that a key concern for... parents is the potential to expose children to discriminatory language or behaviour which they may find distressing or repeat without realising the potential offence.”

Mary Poppins

The BBFC has changed the rating after discriminatory language


“Content with immediate and clear condemnation is more likely to receive a lower rating.”

The first occasion in which the word is used is when Admiral Boom is dangling from the roof of a boat and asks one of the Banks children if they are “going to fight the Hottentots”.

Later in the film when the chimney sweeps, whose faces are blackened from the soot, dance on the roof when the admiral shouts “We’re being attacked by Hottentots,” before aiming fireworks at them.

According to the BBFC’s guidelines on PG content, it claims “some scenes may be unsuitable for young children”.

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins has been a huge success since it's release


It added that whilst children of any age can watch, parents are advised to consider whether some scenes may upset “younger or more sensitive children”.

Mary Poppins is set in early 20th century London, but looking at the historical context the BBFC deemed the language now exceeds guidelines for a U film.

The Disney hit was made famous by its titular lead, Julie Andrews, who once admitted to having a meltdown on the set of the film.

She is famed for flying through the air with the help of her umbrella in the flick, but when discussing the stunt she admitted she hurt herself quite badly.

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins has been rated a PG


She told US Closer magazine: “I landed hard and was quite shaken. I have to admit, I let fly a stream of colourful expletives."

However, the incident didn't deter Walt Disney from wanting to keep the star as Mary and even postponed filming until she had given birth.

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